Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


11th International Conference; Dublin, Ireland; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #41
CE Offered: BACB
Connecting the dots: Shared aims in behavior science
Friday, September 2, 2022
2:00 PM–2:50 PM
Meeting Level 2; Wicklow Hall 2A
Area: PCH/EAB; Domain: Theory
Chair: Dermot Barnes-Holmes (Ulster University)
CE Instructor: Mitch Fryling, Ph.D.
Abstract: This symposium includes three presentations that touch upon interrelated areas of work within behavior analysis. The first presentation addresses the topic of pragmatism in society, science, and behavior analysis, and considers the implications of pragmatism as a guiding aim. The distinct aims of behavior analysis are considered, and the need for more specific philosophical guidance is highlighted. The second presentation focuses on the concept of function. Specifically, the concept of function is considered as it is used in everyday, ordinary language, in traditional behavior analysis, and interbehavioral psychology. The relative implications of using the term function in various ways are considered, including within specific lines of research and work within behavior analysis. Finally, the third presentation focuses on the functional analysis of behavior, particularly in the context of the analysis of complex human behavior. Recent lines of research are considered, and a unique behavioral unit is described. The challenges and opportunities provided by this unit are considered. The symposium concludes with a discussion that attempts to integrate each of these papers.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience: Audience should have an understanding of basic behavioral principles and assumptions of behavior analysis.
Learning Objectives: 1) Describe the limitations of pragmatism as a guiding value in behavior analysis. 2) Discuss the implications of using the term function in different ways. 3) Explain the relational responding, orienting, and evoking in a motivational context unit of analysis
Is it pragmatic to think about philosophy?
MITCH FRYLING (California State University, Los Angeles)
Abstract: Many disciplines and professions share an interest in improving the human condition. Academic disciplines typically pursue this broad aim more indirectly by way of improving our understanding in some way, whereas helping professions pursue this aim more directly by way of service provision. Still, there is a shared interest in understanding and improving the human condition amongst all this work. Indeed, even very different lines of work within each of these areas strives toward improving the human condition. For example, within psychology psychoanalytic, cognitive, and behavior analytic psychologists all aim to understand and influence the human condition in some way. This presentation addresses the topic of pragmatism in behavior analysis specifically. In doing so, the ways in which behavior analysis is distinct from alternative approaches is highlighted. It is argued that if behavior analysis aims to be helpful in a distinctly behavior analytic way, to make a unique contribution to the shared aim of improving the human condition, the field will need to be guided by more than broad pragmatic aims. What is needed is a fully articulated set of philosophical assumptions upon which behavior analytic work may be coordinated and fostered.
A cause by any other name …
LINDA J. PARROTT HAYES (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: The term “function” has more than one referent. In everyday speech, the referent for this term is, roughly, the use to which a thing is made or put, as in the function of a screwdriver is to turn screws. In Behavior Analysis, the term function refers to the variable maintaining a bit of behavior, as in the function of pinching is escape from demands. The variable maintaining the behavior in this case is its typical consequence, and the consequence of behavior is interpreted as its cause. In Behavior Analysis, functions are causes. Functions are not causes in Interbehavioral Psychology. Causality in the traditional sense of potency has been replaced by the notion of functionality. The referent for the term function in Interbehavioral Psychology is an interaction of responding and stimulating. For analytical purposes, responses as topographical iterations and stimuli as objects are distinguished from responding and stimulating as functions, some of which are substitutional. The term function has two referents in Relational Frame Theory, one with causal potency, one without. The aim of this paper is to consider the referents for the term “function” for the purpose of productive scientific exchange.
What happens to functional analysis when behavioral histories establish dynamic, nonlinear behavioral units of analysis?
COLIN HARTE (Federal University of São Carlos ), Dermot Barnes-Holmes (Ulster University)
Abstract: A traditional functional analysis involves specifying the functional relations between contextual variables (e.g., antecedents and consequences) and a response pattern, such as lever pressing. If the rate of lever pressing increases when an antecedent is present, but only when a particular consequence is available, then the antecedent may be defined as a discriminative stimulus and the consequence a reinforcer. The functional analysis of the relations among the three elements (antecedent, behavior, and consequence) allows the behavioral scientist to apply technical terms to these events. Functional analyses become more complex, however, when extended behavioral histories establish behavioral units involving more than basic increases (or decreases) in response rates. We reflect upon a recent example of a complex analytic unit that renders any functional analysis of the behavior in question more challenging than the traditional analysis outlined above. Specifically, we outline the concept of a behavioral unit that involves derived relational responding, orienting, and evoking, within a motivational context, which we refer to as the ROE-M. Our core argument is that once the ROE-M is established, contextual variables serve to perturbate the dynamics of the ROE-M, rather than simply modifying response rates. The ROE-M thus presents a serious challenge to behavior-analytic researchers.



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